What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-
- Set an intention or baseline for each ride and encounter
- Confidence and its direct link to relaxation
- Becoming comfortable in the discomfort
- What the ‘rinse and repeat’ looks like for relaxation
Have you been trying to work on relaxation when riding? However, your horse is just a little too ‘hot’ to relax. It seem the more you try to make him ‘relax’, the hotter and hotter he comes. You’re not alone, it is a frustrating experience for many riders.
This episode is focused how you can start to cultivate more relaxation when riding a hot or sensitive horse. I say sensitive because often the word ‘hot’ can bring up negative ideas. However, looking at your horse as rather being more sensitive means we can look at the situation with more compassion and less ‘heat’!
Set an Intention for Each Interaction and Ride
Before we go any further, relaxation is simply a lack of excess tension when the horse is being ridden. Relaxation is also relative depending on the specifics of each unique situation.
Relaxation is almost always accompanied by rhythm. They are not the same, however it is very rare to have one without the other. With this in mind, I believe that relaxation begins before you even interact with your horse each day. Very often riders will arrive at the barn, and bring all their outside stresses with them. The job, the dinner, the finances etc.
What they fail to realise is this energy and frame of mind really and truly sets the tone for the interaction they have with their horse. It sets the rhythm, which in turn will directly impact the relaxation.
Becoming Aware of the Voice in Your Head!
Why or how does this happen? I’m not 100% sure, perhaps it is telepathy, perhaps not… What I personally think is that whatever you are subconsciously thinking about, the internal dialogue, is then being played out in your physical body. The tension, frustration, anger, nerves etc.
Because you then are in direct contact with your horse, and when riding you are actually using your body to communicate with your horse, this has a direct impact.
Setting a clear intention for each ride or interaction helps to prevent this from happening. It helps you to get in the correct place mentally and emotionally in order to then interact, and therefore, influence your horse.
Confidence and It’s Direct Impact on Relaxation
This ‘head chatter’ can also have a direct impact on your confidence and your horses confidence. I want you to think about something you do, which you are good at. You have a level of confidence about it, which leads to a physical ‘ease’. The task itself might not be easy, however you are almost flowing with it.
The fact remains that very often the confidence issue can often be introduced by the rider. Perhaps you are thinking about yesterdays ride. Or maybe you are thinking about what ‘could’ go wrong. Every time you get into the saddle, it is a whole new ride. A clean slate. Keep your focus on that fact and allow it to help you build confidence.
Confidence is Equally as Important for Your Horse
I also want you think about the fact that clarity leads to confidence. When your horse understands what he is supposed to be doing. When you are telling him ‘Yes, that is what I wanted, well done’, his confidence will grow exponentially.
Confidence also comes when you build trust in your relationship with your horse
As always, I am going to suggest starting on the ground, with basic groundwork to build that trust. Create a rhythm on the ground. Be compassionate in how you interact with your horse. Build on it every day, routine and rhythm, routine and rhythm which will lead to a great trust when you are in the saddle.
Groundwork builds your horses confidence, which will result in him being able to relax more through his body while being ridden
Becoming Comfortable in the Discomfort
Let’s take a different example this time to explain this concept… Imagine you are on a mare, she is a sensitive soul, and you can feel that the energy levels are definitely rising. That feeling. Most riders first reaction is to ‘rein her in’; literally using the reins to try to shut things down. This rarely helps and often has the opposite desired effect by increasing the excess tension.
Hmmm… Put yourself in the horses shoes here. This is basically the equivalent of telling a highly stressed or excited human to ‘please relax’ or, even better, ‘calm down’. It never works! In fact, it has the opposite effect of making the person feel like they are not being heard or not being taken seriously. It adds fuel to an already volatile situation.
If you are beginning to feel frustrated, anxious, fearful in a situation, you are really only adding to the excess tension of the situation. Rather feel your way a little through the discomfort.
What does this discomfort look like? It it almost an allowing of things to unfold, rather than jumping in to ‘control’ everything. It is letting it ride for a few strides, rather than reining it in. It is going with horse and learning to trust that all will be well.
If you can become mindful enough to sit in the emotional or mental discomfort for a few seconds longer, the energy will begin to dissipate from that situation.
The result is almost always that your horse will also begin to feel more comfortable, which leads to increased confidence, which leads to greater ease, which leads to greater relaxation.
If you stop ‘fighting’ it, the excess energy or tensions has nothing to fight and therefore nowhere to contain itself. Obviously this is all within the confines of a safe and enclosed area. Somewhere you feel confidence starting off.
This Is Not a Physical Discomfort
It goes without saying, but just for the record let’s say it anyway – this is an emotional or mental discomfort. It is the voice in your head triggering feelings throughout your body. There is no physical pain involved.
The same principles apply for your horse. Asking and allowing him to stay with the discomfort a little until it eases. For many sensitive horses, this can be something as basic as having the riders legs in contact with their sides.
Many riders with ‘hot’ horses, over time, learn to ride with their lower leg a little too far forward. They see their leg as a ‘trigger’ for the horses tension levels. However, in order to truly move forward in their training, those horses must learn that the leg is okay.
It is an emotional discomfort for the horse, which can be eased if the rider is compassionate and consistent with letting it become the new ‘normal’.
Yes, there will be moments of tension and anxiety, but you can learn to remain calm, confident and compassionate, your horse will soon become comfortable and relaxed in a previously stressful situation.
How to Apply this when Riding?
Let’s go back to our example of the mare who was beginning to feel a little excited or anxious underneath you. Your job as the rider is to remain calm, be the energy you want her to mirror.
Hold it out a little longer than you would have previously done. This is you remaining in the ‘discomfort’. Try to control where your mental and emotional energy is going.
From here, you are then going to ask your mare to become a little uncomfortable with the situation. Again, this is mental or emotional discomfort, never physical. This can be when you begin to apply a little pressure through the half halt. Keep in mind that the half halt is not an anchor thrown behind you in the sand, it is more of a suggestion to your horse. A ‘heads up’.
As soon as she begins to respond, you release the pressure, the discomfort. It is as simple as that! Of course, it is also one of those often ‘easier said than done’ scenarios!
Let’s be honest, it will take time and a consistent approach to really cultivate relaxation throughout your ride when in this situation. However, it can be done. You must be mentally and emotionally strong enough to lead the way for your horse.
Links mentioned in the episode:-